I caught Hugh Hewitt's interview of John Podhoretz yesterday. Podhoretz was promoting his latest book, Can She Be Stopped? One of the author's comments resonated with me:
Well . . . the exhortation, warning, threat and effort in my book, is to try very hard to get people to focus on the future, to focus on the fact that we do not have the luxury of this internecine warfare, and this hunger, which afflicts this party every ten or fifteen years, to go through a purification ritual. And that's a very serious thing that's now going on, as I'm sure you know. We're now seeing, Peggy Noonan said it today, that somehow, we need to lose, because we've forgotten why . . . Republican politicians have forgotten why they were sent to Washington.(Emphasis added.) Sure enough, Peggy Noonan, a pretty good bellwhether of hard-shell conservative opinion, thinks "it may take a defeat in November for the GOP to unlearn the lessons of power." I've heard a number of callers to talk radio shows say that it would be good for the country for the GOP to lose Congress this fall. The hosts (Ingraham and Hannity and their ilk, not the thoughtful ones like Hugh Hewitt or Micheal Medved) do not disagree with their audience. They simply fan the flames.
That's nothing new; those two in particular play to their audience incessantly for three hours every weekday. But all that does make me think that the truly hard-core ideologue segment of the party is settling into Podhoretz's "purification ritual" mode.
I'm old enough to know that we see this from time to time. 1992 was one of those times, and I don't think the country is better off for eight years of Clinton, or for the possibly of eight more of Hillary Clinton. Would we even be talking about her today if her husband had not been elected president? In 1976 the hard-core folks sat on their hands after Reagan lost the nomination, and we got Jimmy Carter. Was that good for the country?
I know many think Reagan would not have been elected in 1980 without the failed Carter presidency. People who say that should think about what a terrible indictment of Reaganism it is to argue that Reagan needed the country to fall to such depths in order to get elected.
Well, maybe that's where we are going. Should we get used to Speaker Pelosi, Judiciary Chairmen Leahy and Conyers, and so forth? Can any conservative argue that such leadership would be good for the country?
Update: The ever-incisive Harold Hutchison has more, including this provocative thought:
If conservatives cannot bring themselves sacrifice their pet issues to ensure this country's victory in the war on terror, then they no longer deserve public support or to hold any level of political power. The survival of this country trumps the conservative agenda in my book.An excellent point. We criticize liberals for not being serious about the war on terror. But aren't we conservatives just as guilty of unseriousness if we are willing to jeopardize our cuccess in that war because Bush is not doing exactly what we want him to do about such issues as immigration reform and spending?
Update II: Read these two commentaries on this subject. Then ask yourself, which one is the well-reasoned, thoughtful position, and which is the position arguing from anger?
First, Jim Geraghty from NRO:
By the way, put me down as one of those guys who cannot comprehend the argument that conservatives ought to sit out this election to “punish” the GOP so that they’ll “learn a lesson” and get better/more conservative in the future.
To advocates of this position, I must respectfully ask… are you out of your flippin’ mind?
By what logic does a constituency become more influential and powerful by becoming less active, and demonstrating less capability to turn out the vote and influence elections?
Let’s say Congressman Tom Tancredo represents your views on illegal immigration. You’re angry at the GOP leadership for not espousing his positions; you’ve concluded that they don’t listen to him. Do you really think the ball will get moved in your direction by throwing the party that has Tancredo out, and replacing it with the party that doesn’t have a Tancredo figure in it at all?
Now this editorial from the Washington Examiner:
Karl Rove reportedly has a plan to “stir up” the base to again save the Republicans’ electoral bacon, but conservatives won’t be satisfied this time around with more token efforts on issues like marriage and dire warnings that “the Democrats would be far worse.” Conservatives have heard that song before and know it never has a second verse.
That's the point to make, by golly-- we're mad as, well, heck, and we're not going to take it any more! We'll show you faithless Republicans!
Read both pieces in their entirety. I vote for Geraghty as the thinking voice, and the Examiner editorial as the one based on anger.
Update 3: John Schroeder, over at my "other" blog, Article6blog, has some thoughts on this subject from a different perspective.